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Breaking glass ceilings in Utah politics: a conversation with Senator Luz Escamilla

Senator Luz Escamilla
senate.utah.gov/sen/ESCAML/

Born and raised in Northern Mexico, Senator Luz Escamilla is the first Latina elected to the Utah State Senate as well as the first immigrant elected to the Utah State Legislature.

Manuel Girón: Senator Escamilla, it is an honor to be able to interview you today. Thank you very much for allowing us to conduct this interview.

Senator Escamilla: Thank you for the opportunity to chat with your audience and the opportunity to share my story a little bit. I have learned over the years that stories and being able to tell our experiences make people know you better and you can connect better with people, so I thank you for this opportunity.

Manuel Girón: Senator Escamilla, what motivated you to enter politics?

Senator Escamilla: Politics is the closest avenue to make a change. I started to realize the disparities and social injustices that existed in this country, especially for people of different ethnicities, minorities and women. An urge was born within me to bring a change. I understood from the beginning that to make a change you had to be there at the table with those who are making the decisions, entering the room, sitting at that table is not easy and it was not easy 20 years ago. As a migrant, as a woman, as a Latina, there was even more opposition, but I understood that to make a change in public and social policy I had to be there.

Manuel Girón: Senator Escamilla, you are the first Latina elected to the Utah State Senate as well as the first immigrant elected to the Utah State Legislature. As a Latina woman who immigrated to this country, how does it feel to be the first person to break this glass ceiling?

Senator Escamilla: It is a very great responsibility and an honor because people have supported me. You don't win an election without the support of the people. Many people who believed in me when, at 28 years old, I decided to throw myself into politics, remove a legislator and then have a very strong Republican opponent. There were many people who believed in me and there were many people who did not believe in me, but those people who believed in me have been with me all this time. 13 years after being elected they are still part of the many campaigns we have won as well as the campaigns we have lost. How does It feel? Well, a very big responsibility. It is humbling, there is a feeling of humility to feel that people appreciate and believe in you.

Manuel Girón: What is the legislation you have supported or created that you are most proud of?

Senator Escamilla: One of the most important things that I was able to do is that every child in Kindergarten through third grade be screened for an eye exam. There was a personal connection with one of my daughters because if she hadn't been for that she would have lost complete sight in one eye, but thanks to an exam that was done at her school, we were able to save her eye. Changing the definition of bullying and harassment, that took me years based on a very tragic experience of a young man who committed suicide outside his Junior High because they were bullying him, and having to interact with those families who suffered such a terrible loss, but their dedication to work with me to bring this change to the state level was very important, that proposal took me 4 years. I have made proposals in the area of medical marijuana also to help patients and bring access to patients. Medical marijuana has been very important to many people.

Manuel Girón: Senator Escamilla, final message for the Latino community.

Senator Escamilla: First, vaccines, let’s continue to be aware that the pandemic has not gone away, that COVID is not going to go away, it is now going to be part of our lives. Second, right now unemployment is very low, which is very good, it means that there are many options for people to work, but we are going to see a cycle and possibly in a couple of years we are going to have a recession and that recession is going to affect us a bit, so be aware, let's start saving because we still don't know how this pandemic is going to end or what it will look like in one or two years from now.

Manuel Girón: Senator Escamilla, Thank you so much for this interview.

Manuel Giron produces news content at UPR. As a bilingual reporter, he writes stories in English and Spanish, and is involved in all steps of the reporting process from thinking of story ideas to writing the stories and preparing them for air. He is a Senior at Utah State University majoring in Political Science and minoring in Portuguese. He loves to write, read, listen to music, and swim. He is incredibly excited about working for UPR and learning about journalism in the process.